Virgin Media says trials for ‘Project Lightning’ network expansion have been promising
Virgin Media now has almost five million broadband customers ahead of its £3bn ‘Project Lightning’ network expansion project and says trial areas suggest this figure will expand as construction gets underway later this year.
“We continue to see excellent traction in our trial areas as penetration is in-line with and ARPU is ahead of expectations,” said Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global in the firm’s first quarter results.
Virgin Media’s figures are now combined with those of UPC Ireland in Liberty Global’s financials and show it has as 4,929,599 broadband customers in the UK and Ireland, contributing to a 1.9 percent rise in subscriber revenues to £925.6 million.
Virgin Media broadband
This includes £809.3 million worth of cable revenue, up by 2.3 percent, and £116.3 million of mobile revenue. Virgin Media now has three million mobile subscribers.
The company said a focus on small and home offices (SOHO), SMBs and underserved areas, such as London’s Tech City, contributed to the growth and that 36 percent of its broadband customers receive speeds of at least 100Mbps.
Across the UK and Ireland, Liberty Global networks reach 13,512,900 premises. At last count, Virgin Media’s UK network reached 12.6 million homes and businesses, a footprint that Project Lightning hoped to increase to 17 million.
The expansion will target areas close to its current footprint and places where consumers and businesses register their interest. This means cities rather than rural areas are likely to benefit, whereas BT has connected two million homes and businesses not covered by commercial fibre rollouts thanks to the government-funded Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme.
However, Virgin Media claims its expansion will offer faster speeds and boost competition in areas already covered by BT. The Openreach network primarily uses Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) technology which uses existing copper wire for the final few hundred metres of the connection, delivering speeds of up to 76Mbps.
Virgin’s network offers up to 152Mbps, although it is worth noting that BT plans to rollout G.Fast across its infrastructure, potentially offering 500Mbps to the majority of the UK within a decade. To combat this, Liberty Global is testing technology that could result in 10Gbps speeds in the future.